The Beaverlodge Blades will be back in action this fall. The Junior B hockey team has a brand new board and was approved by the NWJHL to rejoin the league at a meeting Saturday.
Richard Lappenbush took over as club president in March, a position he also held from 2009 to 2011. He says they’re moving forward with fresh energy.
“What we would like to see is a strong, competitive, full-roster team coming out of the west County. Our goal is just to be competitive day in and day out and have a good roster going in to every game.”
Due to financial problems, the Blades have struggled to recruit players, and pulled out of this season in December 2016 with a 1-19-and-1 record. Lappenbush adds that it can also be hard to find local players, as they’re drawing from the same pool as all of the other Junior B teams in the area.
“I just think we have to find a balance between young men starting their careers in the working industry and still be able to enjoy the recreational aspect [of hockey]. Our main goal is to try to find that balance with our association.”
Lappenbush adds the local midget program has gotten stronger over the past 3 to 4 years. Having more local talent on the team is expected to help fill the stands and bring in more funds.
The plan is to work with a budget of $88,000 brought in from sponsorships, fundraisers, and ticket sales. Lappenbush says they want to represent the western part of the County of Grande Prairie, and are hoping to partner with municipalities in the area.
“We have went and knocked on quite a few doors of past sponsors and new sponsors. Now it’s full wagons ahead now that we know we’re back in the league. Local sponsorship is going to be key to running a great program out in Beaverlodge.”
So far, they’re seeing about half-and-half support from former sponsors and new ones. The league will treat the Blades like a new team, reviewing their status after a one year probation period.
Finalizing the coaching lineup is the next step, and that’s expected to happen in the next month, following by a June camp. This year also marks the Beaverlodge Blades’ 20th, and events with alumni are in the works.